Putting an end to days of speculation, the five wise men of Indian cricket presented to the nation their choice of players entrusted with the unenviable task of repairing the country’s bruised reputation.
Never before in the recent past has a selection committee meeting been so keenly followed as today’s fixture. Though chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar put up a brave front by saying ‘I'm under no pressure. It is as independent as it can get’, the grim look on his face after emerging from the marathon two-hour meeting said it all.
More than putting together a suitable unit, the exercise was more of a balancing act for the selectors.
Weighed down by the demand of more than a billion people for a change of guard, the BCCI top grass played to the gallery with promises of promoting youth. Coupled with it was analyzing individual performances and the acts of omission and commission during the mud-slinging between Chappell and the senior players in the aftermath of the debacle.
It was undoubtedly an onerous task and under the circumstances the selectors have shown some resolve by removing non-performing seniors. The Test squad, though along predictable lines, is a balanced one but as far as the ODIs go, they could have done much better.
The inclusion of debutant leggie Piyush Chawla of UP, Bengal batsman Manoj Tiwari and the recall of R P Singh and Gautam Gambhir points towards the Board’s emphasis on youth. There could have been no better turf for innovation but the selectors chickened out. The overriding fear of another humiliation against the minnows and a subsequent backlash prevented them from looking further ahead.
By his own admission after taking as chief selector last year, Vengsarkar had claimed India lacked quality bench strength. Club this statement with the current scenario and we find ourselves looking at a bleak picture. Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid are fast reaching the end of their careers, Sehwag seems to have lost his magical hand-eye co-ordination and there’s no telling when Dhoni would fire. There’s no Kumble to fall back on and Vengsarkar was blunt about Harbhajan. ‘He seems to have stagnated’. That’s not all. Munaf is injury prone and has lost pace while Sreesanth is an expensive proposition in the shorter version.
A move that is bound to raise eyebrows is the dropping or ‘resting’ of Sachin and Sourav for reasons that are, one suspects, disciplinary. The axe was expected to fall but not on India’s two most experienced campaigners. This is bound to put an already under-siege skipper Dravid under further stress.
The setting was perfect for pushing in a few more promising names like Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma and seamers Ishant Sharma of Delhi, Bengal’s Ranadeb Bose and Yo Mahesh of Tamil Nadu ahead of more established but erratic quantities.
It would have been a calculated risk that had the potential to yield long term dividend. Sadly, the selectors allowed this opportunity to slip out of their hands and robbed these youngsters of a chance to put their hands up and be counted.